‘How come we’re not growing an audience?’: Here are Erik Matti’s thoughts on our independent film scene

In the telethon Mamatay Kang Hayup Na Covid Ka, organized by a collective of creative industry advocates, Filipino filmmaker Erik Matti shared his thoughts on the country’s independent cinema scene. 

Matti said that local film festivals exploit filmmakers who have no other avenue for their creations. He stressed that “hungry” filmmakers will agree to the guidelines of film fests, even if it compromises their work, so long as they secure resources for their films. 

The On The Job director said this is why Filipino films these days tend to lack layers as they only focus on a single premise, he called this “and-then filmmaking.”

“Ipapahiya ko talaga yung filmmaker na magsasabi na, ‘wasn’t compromised in this film, we did this for 1.5 million pesos,’ hindi talaga totoo yun so ang nangyayari because uhaw yung filmmaker na gumawa ng movies,” he said. 

Matti then asked if resources or better funding is the key to a good film. Answering his own question, he said film quality ultimately depends on the sensibility of the creator. 

He used the 2017 film Balangiga: Howling Wilderness as an example of an excellent film despite the lack of a multi-million budget.

Another “controversial” analysis he said was how the sensibilities of Filipino filmmakers have changed after countless film seminars abroad. 

“Marami sa filmmakers natin kasi na-engganyo gumawa ng mga film seminars abroad. May Berlin, may Paris cinema. May kung ano ano di ba? Pagbalik nila dito yung sensibility nila, European na. Hindi na Pinoy,” he said. 

Matti discussed that if independent films influenced by seminars abroad were really for Filipinos, their audience should have grown already. 

“How come we’re not growing a Filipino audience? How come year in/year out pag nanuod ka ng entries ng kunyari QCinema, Cinemalaya, it’s the same people attending the screenings?” he asked.

In the end, he urged the organizers of local film festivals to assess the plateau of their audience. 

Mamatay Kang Hayup Na Covid Ka is an online fundraiser for the Philippine Genome Center. Tomorrow’s telethon will feature UP Chancellor Dr. Fidel Nemenzo and Atty. Chel Diokno. 

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